Welcome to the 2012 Hunger Games

pig smoking

Image: Destroy All Designs

My son and I went to the movies and watched The Hunger Games. The future it beheld was a populace living in poverty and starvation; people scrabbling for food and working the coalmines. Meanwhile, the people in the city lived a life of leisure and incredible luxury.

Afterwards, I thought about this bleak future portrayed in the film and book. It dawned on me The Hunger Gamesisn’t about the future, nope, it’s about today and the odds are 99 to 1 you’re one of the coal miners and not the one of the wealthy living in the City.


“Unlike those in the lower half of the top 1%, those in the top half and, particularly, top 0.1%, can often borrow for almost nothing, keep profits and production overseas, hold personal assets in tax havens, ride out down markets and economies, and influence legislation in the U.S.

They have access to the very best in accounting firms, tax and other attorneys, numerous consultants, private wealth managers, a network of other wealthy and powerful friends, lucrative business opportunities, and many other benefits. Most of those in the bottom half of the top 1% lack power and global flexibility and are essentially well-compensated workhorses for the top 0.5%, just like the bottom 99%.

In my view, the American dream of striking it rich is merely a well-marketed fantasy that keeps the bottom 99.5% hoping for better and prevents social and political instability. The odds of getting into that top 0.5% are very slim and the door is kept firmly shut by those within it.” Courtesy of G. William Domhoff.

We get home from work, have a drink, turn on the TV and believe this is the good life. In the middle of the night we wake up and fret about making the mortgage, the rent, hoping we don’t get sick or how to cover medical insurance and affording little thinks like: How is my kid going to ‘get ahead’ in public schools that have been cut to the bone? How am I going to retire when I barely have enough to survive on, let alone sock it away in to a savings account? And a myriad of other items.

In the movie, everything went to the Wealthy, all the work, the sweat, the energy went towards their lavish lifestyles while the poor lived in fear of starvation. Kind of like now. I live in a small house, pay my mortgage, drive a shiny car and hope my wife doesn’t get fired and we lose our medical insurance. We live in fear and dread should these things come to pass because it would be a few short steps more to homelessness.

“I could go on and on, but the bottom line is this: A highly complex set of laws and exemptions from laws and taxes has been put in place by those in the uppermost reaches of the U.S. financial system. It allows them to protect and increase their wealth and significantly affect the U.S. political and legislative processes. They have real power and real wealth.

Ordinary citizens in the bottom 99.9% are largely not aware of these systems, do not understand how they work, are unlikely to participate in them, and have little likelihood of entering the top 0.5%, much less the top 0.1%. Moreover, those at the very top have no incentive whatsoever for revealing or changing the rules. I am not optimistic.”

A few days ago I was invited to attend a symposium held by the Westside Progressives. It featured a few of the more prominent members of the Los Angeles Occupy Movement. They talked of peaceful demonstrations on sidewalks and then being attacked by the Los Angeles Police Department, of getting kicked off the public property City Hall Lawn and subsequently being thrown in jail with bail set at an eye-popping $50,000, of the constant marginalization by mainstream media, which chooses to focus on the more extreme elements of the movement rather than the typical hardworking people involved in the movement.

Eventually, the discussion turned to the entire political system here in America. They said the entire system is so corrupt it is incapable of true and meaningful change. To me it seemed a pretty extreme and outrageous statement – saying our system couldn’t be fixed – that there was too much money and power in the system for it to be repaired and to work equally for all.

rob tossbergBut now, now I’m thinking the Occupy Movement is right. I look at the past few years of government and I see political gridlock, the financial industry rewarded for causing the meltdown while the rest of us are left with the wreckage. Our political system has become the handmaid of the uber-rich, serving their needs and ignoring the 99%. The odds are 99 to 1 you and I are the schmucks, working for scraps while the 1% take a pound of our flesh and look forward to eating our young.

Robb Tossberg


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